“I’m shocked that you would suggest such a thing.” Sherlock pulled open the door to the restaurant, his smile deepening. “After you.”
John walked inside, scanning the faces of the diners. There weren’t many; it was early yet and the place was half empty. Nothing seemed amiss. John’s observations were cut short by Angelo, coming toward them with open arms.
“There they are! My favorite couple!”
John stifled a sigh.
Sherlock allowed himself to be hugged. “Our usual table, Angelo?”
“Yes, yes, of course, the window table! Where you had your first date. Such a romantic.” Angelo led them to the table, beaming. John suppressed a smile. What a world Angelo must inhabit, if Sherlock Holmes was considered a romantic. “Another case, yes?”
Sherlock took his seat with an indulgent expression. “Tell me how you knew.”
“You do not look hungry. Your boyfriend does. I notice these things. Ah, the candle!” Angelo disappeared, snapping his fingers at the waitress to alert her to the new customers.
John slid into his chair and stared out the window, looking for their admirers in the darkening street.
“The man across the street in the red scarf who’s been tying his shoe for the past minute and a half,” Sherlock said in a dry tone. “And the one in the hideous jumper and mismatched socks who is pacing past Angelo’s door for the third time.”
John nodded, managing not to tell Sherlock how bloody amazing he was. He watched the purple and green jumper pass by with considerable bemusement. “Not exactly trying to be unobtrusive, are they? I would have thought—”
“You don’t correct him anymore,” Sherlock said softly.
John glanced at him, startled. “Angelo?”
“You don’t mind?”
“I never minded. I’m just not your date, that’s all.”
Sherlock’s eyebrows rose. “You took pains to introduce yourself to Sebastian as my colleague, as I recall.”
John felt the heat rise to his face. It had been almost a year; he’d hoped Sherlock had forgotten. He should have known better. His hands twitched at the memory; even now, nothing would please him more than to wring that sorry bugger’s neck. “I never said sorry for that, did I?”
“You never needed to.”
“I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. Something about him…unnerved me.” That was true enough.
Sherlock frowned. “Sebastian? He’s relatively harmless. Certainly not someone I’d have expected to unsettle you.”
They were now in perilous territory. Sherlock was in an unusually communicative mood tonight. “I suppose he reminded me of someone I used to know. A small-minded sadistic bastard, to be honest, and—”
“And you wanted to avoid receiving any of his sadistic attentions?”
“I wanted to avoid you receiving any of his sadistic attentions. As it turns out, I didn’t do very well.”
“Oh. That’s…” Sherlock seemed genuinely surprised. “You thought I’d be affected by anything Sebastian Wilkes said?”
The memory of Sherlock’s expression during that conversation rose before John’s mind’s eye. Hell, yes, I did and I do. And I’ll bloody well kick his arse if I get half a chance. “I didn’t know you very well, did I?”
Angelo arrived with the candle, a bottle of wine and two glasses. “On the house, on the house.” He winked at them and hurried off in the direction of the kitchen.